After reviewing all of the information and considering relating circumstances in hearings last week, a hearing committee of the Canadian Judicial Council stated in an oral ruling that Quebec Justice Michel Déziel should not be removed.
Déziel is facing allegations that back in 1997, when he was a lawyer and an organizer for a party involved in a municipal election, he asked Gilles Cloutier to convert $30,000 into political contributions of $750 each.
The donations were allegedly for the Action civique de Blainville party. Cloutier, who worked for an engineering firm, made the allegations in 2013 during testimony at the Charbonneau Inquiry into municipal corruption in the province.
The judicial council initially announced in May 2013 that it was conducting a review of the allegations. A review panel concluded in April 2014 that a full inquiry committee should be constituted.
An amended notice of allegations from the judicial council states Déziel has denied the allegations made by Cloutier. Certain facts though, were acknowledged, the notice states. Déziel admits he acted as an intermediary to transfer between $30,000 and $40,000 from an engineering firm and he does not believe the municipal party disclosed these funds. As well, at the time, personal contributions were limited to $750 and corporations were not permitted to make such donations.
While the committee — chaired by Court of Appeal of New Brunswick Chief Justice Ernest Drapeau with Glenn Joyal, chief justice of the Court of Queen’s Bench in Manitoba and Moncton lawyer Rene Basque — admits some of Déziel’s actions did constitute misconduct under the Judges Act, there were mitigating circumstances and they did not make him unfit to continue his duties as a judge.
The committee overall noted the implausibility of some of the allegations and thus won’t be asking for his removal. However, the final decision lies with the full judicial council. The committee will provide it with a written report and then it will meet to consider the case.
Déziel and independent counsel Suzanne Gagné will both have a chance to submit additional written comments.
The council will then make its recommendations to the minister of justice on whether it feels the judge should be removed.
Déziel was appointed in November 2003 to the Superior Court to preside in Laval